Waiver watch: Look to the roaring Tigers and Mariners
Sure, they’re only 18-17 since the All-Star break, but that’s not so bad, especially considering the team has outperformed the playoff-hopeful Los Angeles Angels (16-18), New York Yankees (11-22) and San Diego Padres (16-19). Most importantly, the Tigers’ second-worst-in-baseball offense for the season — the Oakland Athletics have had a stronghold on last place in runs per game all year — has shown some signs of life during the season’s second half, averaging 4.11 runs per contest while scoring six or more runs on 10 occasions, both of those below-average but no longer bottom-five-in-baseball.
Tigers hitters also have a bit of a schedule edge over the season’s remainder. Of their final 38 games, 16 will be played against teams that rank among the majors’ bottom six in team ERA, and an additional 10 games will be played against the Chicago Cubs (3) and Yankees (10), teams with bottom-10 team ERAs for the month of August alone.
It’s for that reason that two of this week’s most highly recommended pickups for the week are Tigers hitters:
Spencer Torkelson, 1B, Tigers: The No. 1 overall pick from the 2020 amateur draft, Torkelson has taken some time to realize his full potential at the big-league level, batting just .212/.294/.333 in his first 168 games in 2022-23, which spanned a seven-week, late-2022 demotion back to Triple-A Toledo. In the past two months, however, he has begun breaking through in the relative obscurity of a rebuilding Tigers team, batting .238/.320/.512 with 17 home runs in 64 contests. During that time, Torkelson has 33 Barrels, as defined by Statcast, a number exceeded only by Shohei Ohtani (40) and Corey Seager (35), with much of the change the result of a slightly better plate approach, his chase rate 2% lower compared to the former time frame, and a slightly greater launch angle, 4.5 degrees elevated compared to the former. Torkelson has been especially productive in the past two weeks, during which time he has seven of those 17 homers and a 69% Statcast hard-hit rate. That’s a bit more generous a power stretch than fantasy managers have a right to expect going forward, but it also underscores what is probably now natural 30-plus-homer power annually.
Torkelson is locked in as a top-four-in-the-lineup, everyday first baseman for the Tigers, and he’s shockingly still available in 78% of ESPN leagues.
Kerry Carpenter, OF, Tigers: If Torkelson is red hot, what does that make Carpenter? A 2019 19th-rounder, by comparison to Torkelson’s high draft position, Carpenter has batted an unreal-by-anyone-not-named-Julio Rodriguez .393/.443/.821 with seven home runs in his past 15 games, his 66 fantasy points during that time fourth-best among hitters (Rodriguez 76, Matt Olson 73, Bobby Witt Jr. 67). Interestingly enough, only four of Carpenter’s seven homers in that time were Barreled, per Statcast, but he has seven total Barrels (also two hard outs and one double), with those seven a total exceeded by only seven other hitters during that time. Carpenter’s plate approach is somewhat different from Torkelson’s, including a higher chase rate but a greater rate of contact to go with it, and he clobbers fastballs, with a .631 slugging percentage against them this year.
Carpenter’s hot spell seems like less a building-block stretch than Torkelson’s, which is why it’s strange to see Carpenter claimed in a greater percentage of ESPN leagues (25.4%, to Torkelson’s 21.6%). Still, as the two tend to bat back-to-back in the Tigers’ lineup, each helps the other statistically during this upcoming favorable schedule stretch, making Carpenter every bit as worthy a long-range pickup.
A friendly reminder about two recommendations from last week
The Pirates have one of baseball’s most favorable hitting schedules for the week ahead, in part because they’ll begin it with a trio of home games against the softest portion of the St. Louis Cardinals’ rotation (Drew Rom in a spot start, Adam Wainwright and Matthew Liberatore). Between Rom and Liberatore and projected starts by the Cubs’ Justin Steele (Thursday) and Drew Smyly (Sunday), the Pirates are scheduled to face four left-handed starters in their seven home games during Week 20.
That’s great news for Ke’Bryan Hayes, who was examined in greater detail in this space last week, but who still resides on free agent lists in 81% of ESPN leagues. A .286/.324/.508 hitter, including .368/.381/.632 against lefties, in 16 games since his return from the injured list, Hayes is well worth the add for the week ahead.
Similarly to the Tigers, the Athletics have an extremely favorable schedule stretch ahead, though theirs spans primarily only the extent of fantasy’s Week 20. The Athletics host the Kansas City Royals for three games before hitting the road to face the Chicago White Sox for four, meaning they’ll be facing pitching staffs that rank 28th and 25th in team ERA for the season (and the White Sox’s ranking hardly accounts for the fact that they’ve traded a lot of pitching in recent weeks).
Rookie Zack Gelof, the Athletics’ regular No. 2 hitter, is a standout pickup for the week ahead who is available in 77% of ESPN leagues. He’s a .385/.452/.723 hitter with five home runs in 17 games in the month of August.
Stick by the surging Seattle Mariners
Winners of six straight games and 19 of their past 24, the Mariners are suddenly looking like a legitimate playoff team, not to mention one of the game’s better offenses. Since the All-Star break, their 4.97 runs per game ranks ninth in the majors.
This week, the Mariners will receive an additional boost with the anticipated return of J.P. Crawford from the concussion list. While there’s valid debate as to who should lead off for this team after Julio Rodriguez’s scorching hitting — J-Rod batted .462 (24-for-52) as the 10-game leadoff stand-in for Crawford — Crawford more than likely will reclaim the role at least against right-handed starters. Crawford was a .307/.431/.466 hitter in 24 games out of that role since the All-Star break at the time of his injury, and his keen eye at the plate makes him an ideal table-setter for this lineup. Make sure to add him for at least fantasy’s Week 20, as his Mariners are set to face those same White Sox (road series) and Royals (home). All six of the projected starters they will face are also right-handed.